By JoAnna Ness, Oct 21 2019 07:25PM
Although Charles “Chad” Craig became known as a star cross country runner, he was often sick as a baby. He struggled to gain weight and was in and out of the hospital. When the family found out that Chad had cystic fibrosis, his mother, Sheila Petry, was able to help him turn a corner. Sheila learned about special enzymes that would help Chad digest his food, and they gave him breathing treatments several times a day to help clear the mucus in his lungs. With these tools in use, Chad was finally able to gain weight and learn how to walk. They moved back to Steuben County, and Chad started school at Fremont Elementary. With the help of great teachers who called home when there were colds going around, he as able to stay safe and get an education. At the age of 5, a former Olympian named Hermon Phillips met Chad and said, “We’re going to make you strong.” Phillips ran the 400 meter dash in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, and he used his training to help Chad. They marked of distances in the road and Chad worked his way up, running a little farther each time. The exercise helped Chad gain strength, and his doctor prescribed running when he returned to school.
Chad loved football and wanted to play in school, but he was too small. Instead, he took up cross country and loved his coach, Bob Head. The owner of a local restaurant in Fremont, the Char-Boy, made a deal with Chad that every time he improved his score, Chad could get a shrimp dinner. That was a great motivation, and Chad became a cross country campion record setter. “He just had this inner strength that was amazing,” said Sheila. Chad ran 135 miles in the summer between his junior and senior year. “He ran because he wanted to beat cystic fibrosis,” said Sheila.
Chad went to Manchester University with scholarships, and graduated from Tri-State with a degree in biology and physical education. After graduating, he worked for his uncle, Sam, in the timber business. He loved riding horses and was a trained hunter and fisherman. He loved spending time with his brother, Todd, his sister, Candy, his nieces and nephews, and his partner, Kristi.
Later in life, Chad struggled more with his illness. He caught pneumonia and was hospitalized for a time. He became resistant to antibiotics after a lifetime of taking them to fight lung infections. However, his family remarked that Chad never complained. His response to people asking how he was doing was always something like, “oh, about average!”
The Chad Craig Memorial Scholarship Foundation was established after his death in 2009, and it has provided an annual scholarship for a Fremont student who was a member of Cross County for at least 3 years. Now, the fund will continue on in a new form, administered at the Steuben County Community Foundation. “We can breathe a sigh of relief,” shared Sheila Petry, “and I hope it keeps his memory alive in Fremont.” The family would like to thank the many community members and pool players who supported their fundraising for a decade. Additional contributions to the scholarship can be made through the Steuben County Community Foundation.